Lions Notebook: Will Detroit Keep Peterson?

Despite his rather high salary, the Detroit Lions might end up utilizing the veteran linebacker ... more news and notes inside.

Lions linebacker Julian Peterson said he has not heard about his contract since general manager Martin Mayhew spoke with his agent, Kevin Poston, early in the offseason.

"As far as I know, they just had a nice conversation," Peterson said. "I'm still here. We'll see. I want to stay here."

Peterson was a Pro Bowl alternate last season. But he wasn't as consistently productive as he has been in the past. He turns 32 in July, and he is due a $7.5 million salary in 2010.

At the NFL scouting combine in February, Mayhew said he had spoken to Poston. He stressed that he hadn't used the word "cut." Asked if he had used the word "restructure," he said he couldn't remember.

But Mayhew also said he thought Peterson was "the kind of player who's going to be an even better player when he gets better players around him." And asked if Peterson could come back at his current number, he said it was possible.

Since then the Lions have let Larry Foote leave as a free agent and traded Ernie Sims, and they have acquired Ndamukong Suh, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Corey Williams.

Peterson is now alongside DeAndre Levy and Zack Follett at linebacker. The Lions are high on Levy, a third-round pick last year, but he has started only two games in the middle. They are giving a shot to Follett, a seventh-round pick last year, but he has started zero games and has a lot to prove. They could make another move, but if this trio starts Sept. 12 at Chicago, Peterson must be the anchor.

Adding Suh, Vanden Bosch and Williams to the front four should help.

"I think that's the same with a lot of other people," coach Jim Schwartz said. "You put better players around them. They get some attention. Maybe you get less opportunities, but your production increases. Julian's always been a guy that can find his way to the passer, but it makes it a little bit easier when you have some of those other guys rushing."

Peterson shouldn't have to play defensive end as often as he did last year to help the pass rush. The Lions can use him in situational pass-rushing packages and as a blitzer, helping create or take advantage of mismatches. In theory, when Peterson attacks the QB now, it will be because the Lions want him to, not because they need him to.

"You'll see him moving around," Schwartz said. "You'll see him rush the passer from a lot of different places. It won't necessarily be as a defensive end with his hand in the ground."

The Lions could approach Peterson again before the regular season starts. But unless they are willing to cut or trade him, they would have no leverage. And it should be noted there is no salary cap this year.

Asked if he had any nervousness or felt in limbo at all, Peterson said: "I've been around too long. It is what it is, at times. You can't worry about that. You've got to go out here and do your job; everything else will take care of itself."

Bulluck Back With Schwartz?

Could Keith Bulluck reunite with Jim Schwartz in Detroit, the way Kyle Vanden Bosch already has?

Bulluck reportedly is three weeks away from being fully recovered from his torn ACL and will begin visiting teams as a free agent. He played for Schwartz in Tennessee, as Vanden Bosch did before signing with the Lions in March, and the Lions could use him.

"I think that he's a guy, among others, that we've had our eye on," Schwartz said. "It just throws a little bit of a monkey wrench into it for him because he's coming off an ACL. But he's a quality player that's played for a long time in the NFL, and when he's available, I'm sure there will be a lot of teams that will be interested in him."

Schwartz was Tennessee's linebackers coach in 2000 when the Titans drafted Bulluck in the first round. Schwartz became the defensive coordinator the following year. Bulluck led the Titans in tackles six out of the last seven seasons he played for Schwartz.

The Lions have an opening at Bulluck's spot: outside linebacker. They're giving Zack Follett a shot in organized team activities, but Follett, a seventh-round pick last year, has never started an NFL game.

What would have to happen for the Lions to sign Bulluck?

"No. 1 would be a contract," Schwartz said. "No. 2 would be where he is physically and at what point he would be cleared for complete things."

Bulluck, 33, suffered his injury Dec. 20. As reference points, tight end Brandon Pettigrew tore an ACL on Nov. 26 and running back Kevin Smith tore one Dec. 13. Both are moving around well but are limited.

"We have a lot of guys nursing ACLs that are going through individual period, that are going out and doing some off-the-field work and things like that," Schwartz said. "None of them have been cleared for team activities. None of them are ready to go in that regard. So I have a hard time imagining a player like Keith, who's almost in the same boat as some of those guys as far as timetable with an ACL, would be a whole lot different."

Bulluck, listed at 6-3, 235 pounds, generally played on the right side in the Titans' base defense and in the middle in nickel situations. Schwartz called him a multidimensional player who could fit in several spots.

"He's smart," Schwartz said. "He's a veteran player. I think just about any team, he could play anywhere he wanted to, whether it was a 3-4, a 4-3, outside, Will, Sam, right, left. He's got that kind of skill."

OTAs looked a lot like training camp when the Lions engaged in a fairly large scuffle one afternoon. Guard Stephen Peterman and defensive tackle Landon Cohen tussled to the ground. Their teammates flew in. Offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus and defensive end Jason Hunter paired off, too. But there were no punches thrown. "Just a wrestling match," coach Jim Schwartz said. "Guys were hot, and guys were competitive. It crossed the line a little bit too much, and I think they all know that in OTAs I can't fine anybody. So they missed their opportunity to get a free one in."

Schwartz was right in middle of the pile. Asked if he should have been in that position, he cracked: "I've been working out. I was in the middle of it, but I think everybody knew not to tackle the head coach."

Schwartz made sure he sent a message when he spoke to the players on the field. "I told them after practice: I appreciate everybody's competitiveness, I appreciate having to slow guys down, but it's more important to get work," Schwartz said. "And then, the other thing is, that was during the two-minute period. Whether that was called on offense or defense, for a personal foul, that would have lost the game, or lost that drive. So there's lessons to be learned with it. But it was hot, it was muggy. They got toward the end and didn't respond the right way."

Now that the rookies are integrated into the program, the Lions are full speed ahead. "All of a sudden the pace is really going to start accelerating," Schwartz said. "We didn't want to have to go back and reinstall a whole lot with the rookies, so we sort of kept our pace down a little bit, slowed it down a little bit for the vets. But now that the rookies are here and will hear all the same things that the vets hear, all of a sudden we'll start really accelerating our installation of different schemes on offense and defense." Schwartz said he expects to have 90% of the playbook in by training camp.

Cornerback Amari Spievey, a third-round pick, missed most of rookie orientation because of tight hips, and they continue to bother him. He is still easing in physically and mentally during organized team activities. Spievey said picking up the Lions' defense had been "pretty difficult" and he was spending a lot of time with defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham. "I've been chilling next to Gun, listening to the play and seeing it happen, so that's helping me a lot," Spievey said. "The hardest part for me is learning the terminology. I've played similar defenses, but the different names are kind of confusing to me. So once I get that down, I'll be fine."

The Lions won't see what they really have in Spievey for a while, because they drafted him largely for his hardnosed style. "You need to be able to cover in the NFL, so you'll be able to see that," Schwartz said last week. "But part of his skill set is his ability to tackle and his physical nature and his aggressiveness as a corner, and we probably won't see a whole lot of that before we get to preseason games."

Schwartz on Suh: "He's doing well. He started off doing well, so there wasn't a whole lot of room for improvement. He's a pretty good player. We just need to keep him on track and not worry about improving so much."

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